Nicosia Municipal Multifunctional Foundation, Source: Nicosia Municipality

Cyprus government greenlights single referendum on local authority reform

Cyprus government greenlights single referendum on local authority reform

The vote will be held alongside parliamentary elections on 30 May

Cyprus will hold a single, island-wide referendum on the stalled local authority reform together with the parliamentary elections on 30 May. The proposal was approved on Tuesday by the government and subsequently forwarded to parliament for consideration, reports Cyprus Mail. The legislative body can endorse or reject the motion.

Discussion on the local governance reform has been dragging on for years due to opposition from some political parties and communities.

Sprawling local governance system

There are two types of local authorities in Cyprus - Municipalities (comprising urban and tourist centres) and Communities (rural areas), and they are governed by separate laws. Under the Municipal Law of 1985, any community may become a municipality provided it has either a population of more than 5 000, or has the economic resources to function as a municipality. This must be decided by a local referendum, subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers. The main association of local authorities in Cyprus is the Union of Cyprus Municipalities.  

The planned reform envisages sweeping changes in the way local authorities operate. This includes reducing the number of municipalities from 30 to 17 and merging hundreds of communities to cut expenses.

Individual referendums rejected

Opposition parties, especially the powerful AKEL Communist party, have not been happy, suggesting communities should hold individual referendums to decide whether they wanted the reform or not. The government countered that, if individual communities reject the bill after its parliamentary approval, this would essentially kill the reform, as its enforcement would become impossible.

The projected single nationwide referendum would include the question: “Do you agree with the local authority reform on the basis of the government proposal for the creation of 17 new municipalities with administrative and financial independence?”

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